Sales Training

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The Maybes Will Kill You

I have a question for you. What is your definition of a 'close'? No, really.
We spend a lot of our time as sales people going after this close thing. And 'closing' is often quoted as the one element of sales that salespeople have the most anxiety about.

So, what is it? When you say you are trying to 'close a sale', what do you mean? What actually is a close and how do you know when you've got one?

I ask this question a lot during sales training. Usually, when I do ask it, I get a room full of incredulous faces or narrowed eyes. "What's this guy talking about?" they're thinking. "What, he doesn't know? This is basic...isn't it?"

So, what's your answer? Here are the answers I get 99% of the time from radio sales people all over the world:

"It's getting the contract."
"It's a name on the dotted line."
"It's confirming the business."
"It's getting a 'Yes'"
"It's when the check clears."

In contrast, my definition is this: a 'close' is simply that; 'closing the process'; ending the discussion; coming to a decision. Most importantly, closing is coming to a decision whether that decision is positive or negative; whether the answer is 'Yes' or 'No'. That's right; a firm 'No' is just as valuable a close as a firm 'Yes.'

So, am I just crazy? Look at it this way. The fact is that the vast majority of sales people are trained from day one to go for the close. The entire definition of a sales person's success is their 'close rate'. But if your definition of this hallowed close is limited to getting only a positive decision from a prospect, then it stands to reason that a "No" must be a failure. This fallacy in turn leads to most sales people being happier with a 'Maybe' than a 'No" (It's not a 'Yes', but at least it's not a 'No'!).

The truth however is that 'Maybes' are your death sentence as a sales person. They are poison; destruction; temptation, smoke and mirrors and a dreadful waste of time. Maybes lead you into self-delusion, inflated expectations and the unforgivable sin of over-promising and under-delivering. They make the unrealistic seem doable and they stop you from getting on with getting more Yes's and No's.

The truth is that what you are after, with every single prospect, is a decision; and there are only two possible satisfactory decisions; Yes or No.

The truth is that even if you are the world's best sales person ever, you will still get a lot more No's than Yes's. That's fine, that's expected. But if you never waste your time on holding out for Maybes, your close rate will be 100%. Then all you have to do is work on making as many as possible of those decisions positive ones. Deep inside, you know it takes just as much spit and courage to get a good, solid, considered and polite 'No' as it does to get a 'Yes'. In fact, for most sales people, 'No' is their worst fear. So, instead we'll happily spend more and more time on useless Maybes.

Sales should be simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple. Treat your prospects with courtesy and respect. Offer them the best deal you can on products that really make sense, for them. And then ask them to decide. That's closing.

Matt Hackett, CEO, ARIA inc. matt@aria-radio.com

Sales Training